Faith and the Law

June 27, 2006

Gutenberg BibleI especially enjoyed the Epistle for today’s Daily Office.  In talking about the law, Paul recounts nicely Abraham’s journey of faith by reminding us that Abraham first discovered his faith, and them discovered the law.

He did not discover his faith through the law, but instead discovered the law through faith.

If only we could remember that today.

Instead we have so many people that are intent on trying to discover faith through the law.  As Paul reminds us, that is just backward.  First we must find our path, we must trust as Abraham trusted.  Then we will begin to understand the law.  It is not through application of the law alone and in isolation that we find God.  God is not the law.  The law does not exist to serve itself.  The law is not the path to salvation; that is idolatry.  But how many times do we hear preachers, priests, and ministers preaching on the need for adherence to some kind of strict moral law?  The need to refrain from “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” so to speak.

That’s the wrong approach.  You can’t start there.  That is like trying to cure alcoholism by taking the liquor out of the alcoholics house and not giving him any treatment for the underlying disease.  He will just go to the liquor store as soon as you’ve left and buy more.  You need to put him in a treatment program– maybe more than once– allow him to find his own path, and then he will be on the road to recovery.

We can’t expect people to find the road to salvation by preaching the “virtues” of “sin-free” living.  We’re not sin free.  What we can do is preach the virtues of a life lived in a manner which always looks toward God for trust, direction, and help.  That is our “treatment.”  The net result of that approach is much more subtle, but the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” sins- the sins of the flesh, so to speak- fall away once we find our path.  OK, maybe not the rock and roll.  I like that part.

But to push back on the “sin” part without having the faith part to compensate is doomed for failure.  Only those who are either in no need of healing will benefit.  Either those, or those with personality types who are very rule-based.  But there are a whole-lot of people who cannot, by their very nature, benefit from such an approach.

We, as a church, have to recognize this.  The “perils of the flesh” just aren’t what God wants us focused on.  God wants us focused on trust, love, and hope.  I think this passage shows that pretty nicely.


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